New bro helps Righteous Brother Med­ley re­gain ‘Lovin’ Feel­ing’

The Modesto Bee - - Front Page - BY JON BREAM

There’s a new bro in the Righteous Broth­ers.

Thir­teen years af­ter the death of Bobby Hat­field, Bill Med­ley found him­self a new sing­ing part­ner to de­liver such clas­sics as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feel­ing” and “Soul and In­spi­ra­tion.”

Med­ley had spent years as a solo act be­fore some­thing clicked with a long­time pal, Bucky Heard, in 2016.

“I had a cou­ple of mu­si­cian friends who had big ca­reers sit me down,” Med­ley said. “They pretty much told me, ‘You owe it to your pub­lic that was raised on your mu­sic. They made you in the ’60s and now you can pay them back, let them re­sume the mem­o­ries.’

“That was the goose for me.” Still, he said, “You can’t re­place Bobby. You can just fill in.”

The Righteous Broth­ers bring the duo’s clas­sic hits to the Tur­lock Com­mu­nity The­atre on Sat­ur­day, Nov. 17.

Heard, 52, has been sing­ing for years in Bran­son, Mo., where Med­ley started gig­ging af­ter Hat­field’s death. One night Med­ley heard him cover a cou­ple of Jour­ney songs and re­al­ized his voice was a high tenor that fit Hat­field’s parts.

“He just killed it,” Med­ley re­called. “The next night I heard him do some John Fogerty and Cree­dence songs. And I said, ‘Well, he’s a rock ‘n’ roll singer.’?”

An Alabama na­tive, Heard stud­ied act­ing at Auburn Univer­sity, worked in mu­si­cal the­ater and also sang in rock bands. For years, he was fea­tured in a “Le­gends” show as one of the Blues Broth­ers. “He was do­ing John Belushi and that’s why it was so sur­pris­ing to me when I saw him do Jour­ney,” Med­ley said.

The two got to­gether at a pi­ano and dis­cov­ered their voices worked to­gether.

“He can do all the way from Lit­tle Richard to Pavarotti,” Med­ley said of his new part­ner. “Ev­ery once in while, I’ll ask him to do ‘Nes­sun Dorma’ and he sings it in Ital­ian.”

“He’s the hard­est work­ing guy I’ve ever known. We’d been friends for 12 years. I knew he had a great sense of hu­mor. He wasn’t afraid if you took shots at him. And I’m not in­se­cure like that, ei­ther.”

On work­ing with orig­nal part­ner Hat­field, Med­ley said, “I was tall, he was short. I had dark hair, he had light hair. I had a low voice, he had a high voice. We were op­po­sites in ev­ery sin­gle way.

“We are the top and bot­tom of a quar­tet. Those are not two guys you’d put to­gether to sing duets. We were both raised on rhythm and blues. We sang with a lot of emo­tion. We weren’t pretty boys. The kids would say to us, ‘I didn’t know it was OK to feel like that.’ Be­cause the mu­sic be­fore that was pretty tame.”

So what was righteous about the duo’s pro­ducer, Phil Spec­tor?

“It’s a tough word to throw around but he was a ge­nius,” Med­ley said. “You usu­ally think you’re go­ing to hear a hor­ror story with Phil. He was real good with us. He worked us real hard. It al­ways got bet­ter when we did it again.

“‘Lovin’ Feel­ing’ was done on two-, three- or four-track ma­chines and you won­der how did he do that. It’s a pretty re­mark­able record.”

Spec­tor wouldn’t al­low out­siders in the stu­dio while record­ing in­stru­men­tal parts. How­ever, when the duo was cut­ting its vo­cals in late 1964 for “Lovin’ Feel­ing” — con­sid­ered Spec­tor’s mas­ter­piece — Med­ley re­calls the pro­ducer invit­ing all kinds of guests into the con­trol room, in­clud­ing two of the Rolling Stones and other Los An­ge­les pro­duc­ers.

“It was Phil’s time to show off and ev­ery­one was laugh­ing. Bobby and I fi­nally said, ‘Lis­ten we’ll be back to­mor­row. Have every­body out of the stu­dio and we’ll get this vo­cal done.’ ”

“Lovin’ Feel­ing” be­came the 20th cen­tury’s big­gest ra­dio hit.

“Get­ting voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was amaz­ing but there’s 300 peo­ple in there,” Med­ley said. “There’s only one record that’s the most played. That’s very cool.”

THE BROKAW COM­PANY

The Righteous Broth­ers bring clas­sic hits to the Tur­lock Com­mu­nity The­atre.

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